Energy security in scenarios for Europe's future electricity supply

SEFEP staff: Antonella Battaglini, December 2012

In the last few years, a number of studies concerning pathways for the very far-reaching decarbonisation of the European power system were published. These studies have had a considerable impact on both climate and energy policy and on the European energy debate in general, because they all conclude that it is technically possible and probably even economically beneficial to decarbonise the European power sector by 80-100% by 2050 using mainly, or exclusively, electricity from renewable sources in a pan-European, Supergrid, approach, supported by electricity imports from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Most of these studies also reach the conclusion that decarbonisation through renewables expansion is secure: that it can maintain or increase European energy security compared to today.

In many energy and electricity scenarios, Europe will import a substantial share of it its energy needs, either in the form of fossil or nuclear power plant fuels or, as is the case in Supergrid decarbonisation scenarios, as renewable electricity. However, it is not always clear from which regions or countries these imports originate, or in which setting they will take place. In most cases, “energy security” is not even defined, and it lies at hand that the subject of the security considerations may vary widely across different studies. Still, any scenario of the future electricity supply must prove that it is secure, or Europe would be well advised not to pursue policies that support developments in the direction pointed out in the scenario. Finding out whether importing renewable electricity from MENA would be a threat to European energy security was the aim of the project, the results and implications of which are summarised here, together with an overall conclusion.

This working paper can be downloaded here.

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